The Happy Couple

 
Previously: Newlyweds

"To be fair, my love, Markarth is known as the City of Blood and Silver."

After the guards shooed them from the street, Zahra and Roggvir found themselves in the main hall of tavern called - of all things - the Silver-Blood Inn.

Like every other building in town, it was made entirely of stone, and while Dwemer architecture was beautiful and highly advanced, Zahra wasn't feeling the famed magic of Markarth. Only moments inside its walls and she was ready to go.

"Do you really want to live here?" she asked him bluntly. "Seriously? That could be you lying dead in the street tomorrow, or next week. That could be me."

Roggvir scoffed. "I highly doubt you would go down so easily."

She met his gaze levelly. "That could be one of our children someday." She paused for effect, letting it sink in. He became solemn as she coolly continued. "Markarth is not safe, not now, not ever. It's the only city besides Riften where I haven't seen children running and laughing in the streets."

Roggvir was tired of travel, and of having the same conversation over and over again with his now wife. Was this going to be their future? And was she always going to be right?

"We've been traveling a lot," he said lowly, wearily. "Let's focus on resting and getting our bearings. We need coin, Zahra. You have taken good care of us thus far, my love, but I can't be a husband who relies so heavily on his wife. If there's one thing Markarth has going for it, it's making coin. That man out there was wearing a miner's uniform. How much do you want to bet I can get his job tomorrow?"

"And after that?" his wife calmly pressed.

"I'll earn enough coin and we can move somewhere else," he promised.

"I'll help you," she shrugged. "Markarth is bound to have an apothecary; I'll see if they're hiring. The sooner we replenish our funds," she cut him off, when he would protest, "the sooner we can get the hell out of here."



Roggvir decided to hold his tongue, leaving Zahra to go rent them them a room. Not only was their chamber cramped, much to their dismay, the small bed was also made of stone.

"I read about this many times," Zahra murmured lowly. "I thought it was just a joke, on account of the whole city being made from stone."

"As soon as we make enough money, we're getting a bigger room," Roggvir declared immediately.

"And will the bed also be made of stone?" his wife asked, blinking slowly, her tone almost dangerously calm.

"It's only for a short while," he assured her once more. "Surely, we've been through worse?"

***

Getting jobs in Markarth was easy, but not because they were so abundant. Rather, it was the workforce that was a bit thin. The city was home to Cidhna Mine, the largest silver mine in Skyrim, owned by the Silver-Blood family. It also doubled as the city jail. The prisoners mined the ore from the inside, while the smelters worked the ore on the outside. As it turned out, the dead man in the street was a smelter, not a miner, as Roggvir had initially assumed.

And now Roggvir was a smelter too, under the supervision of a towering Orc overseer, Mulush gro-Shugurz.


Mulush didn't ask too many questions when Roggvir arrived the next day. The Nord was young, fit, and eager to work, and that's all the mattered. The sullen-looking Redguard woman to his side, however....

"You looking for a job too?" Mulush grumbled, giving her a once over.

"The innkeeper told me there was an apothecary around here," came the eerily emotionless reply. 

Mulush pointed west, towards the waterfall. "The Hag's Cure is up there, second door on the left."

The man and woman turned to each other. The man was warm. "I'll see you at supper then?"

The woman was stiff. "Supper," she echoed. She turned and left abruptly.

Mulush raised an eyebrow. "That's your wife?"

Roggvir beamed, staring after her. "We are newlyweds."

That really surprised Mulush. "Arranged marriage?"

Roggvir turned back to him, brow slightly furrowed. "Sort of. My sister introduced us." 

Your sister must really hate you, Mulush blinked, but said nothing. He was just glad he wasn't stuck with a cold fish like that.

"Come, I'll show you how to work the smelter."

***


The Hag's Cure was the largest apothecary Zahra had ever seen. It was owned by an elderly Breton woman named Bothela. She was short, with long white hair and black markings on her face. She eyed Zahra warily when the young Redguard woman came inquiring about a job.

"I already have an apprentice," the older woman grumbled. "Muiri may not be the brightest star in the heavens, but she does what she's told."

"I'm no apprentice," Zahra told her. "I'm a fully trained alchemist."

Bothela raised an eyebrow. "Did you graduate from the College?"

"No."

"Did you study under any of the alchemists in the other cities?"

"I was privately educated," Zahra told her. She'd come to rely heavily on that line; the people of Skyrim seemed to respond favorably to the idea of a private education.

"Is that so?" the old woman asked, cynically stroking her own chin. "Get over there and brew me something. Use whatever you need to from the stores."



After first Zahra was surprised she was getting tested, but then figured it was a reasonable enough request. She figured it wouldn't hurt to make a healing potion; those would never not be in demand. She chose a formula based on imp stool mushroom and wheat.

Bothela inspected her work, first with smell, then taste, nodding in mild approval. "You know it's stronger if you usd sabre cat eye or the wings of a dragonfly...or butterfly," the old woman added with a shrug.

"Sabre cat eyes are extremely hard to come by, and blue dragonfly or monarch butterfly wings can be a nuisance to collect," Zahra replied calmly, hands behind her back. "I didn't want to use up the more expensive items in your store."

Bothela gave into a tiny smirk. "Get over there and brew me a cure. And this time, don't worry about the ingredients."

***


After their first day at their new jobs, Zahra came home with ten septims and Roggvir came with fifteen. Using the coin Zahra had leftover from Psymia's stash, they immediately booked  a larger room at the Silver-Blood Inn for the next several days. Now they had a dining table, a hearth to cook, a proper wardrobe to store their things, and a double bed.

Granted it was still made of stone, but today was a day of tiny triumphs.

Roggvir's wife was in a better mood and he was grateful for it. She ordered them pheasant breast with potatoes and vegetable stew. To celebrate, he purchased a bottle of alto wine. Seated at their tiny dining table, they realized this was their first proper meal together as a married couple.

"You look well, my love," Roggvir smiled at Zahra, weary but affectionate.

She had more energy than he did as she filled both their plates. "I feel well, my love," she smiled back, brightly this time. "At first Bothela was a little cynical about hiring me, but after that sixth potion, she pretended to be finally convinced."

"Mulush had no such cynicism," Roggvir yawned. "Because of Weylin - the man I replaced? - we are late meeting the quota. I'll be working extra hours this whole week."

Zahra was appalled. "So...you won't be home in time for supper?"

"Be of good cheer, my love," he assured her. "This is a good thing, and the extra shifts are temporary. The coin will benefit us greatly."

She nodded, deciding to be supportive. "I'll bring you food at the smelter."

Roggvir glanced over at the new bed, before looking back at his wife. "Shall we?" he smirked teasingly, dinner still untouched.

Zahra glanced at the bed uncertainly. "It's made of stone."

"What if I ask the innkeeper and his wife for a proper mattress?" he chuckled.

She instinctively forced a smile, though inside she winced at the loss of her only excuse. She kept her words even and measured when she replied, "In that case, of course, my love."

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